ESPN’s Suzy Kolber has been a football fan since way back. At age 8 she dressed up in a helmet and shoulder pads for Halloween. Earlier this month, her love for the gridiron earned her the Sports Broadcaster of the Year Award from the Maxwell Football Club. It was the first time in its 69-year history that the suburban Philadelphia club had given an award to a female. The Maxwell Club annually honors top college and pro football players and coaches. Together with Kolber, this year’s honorees included Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy.
Kolber, who was raised and bat mitzvahed in suburban Philadelphia, told the Forward that while she was growing up she had no intention of working on the journalist’s side of the microphone. “I just loved playing sports,” she said. “I was never really thinking, ‘I want to be a broadcaster.’ What I loved about the game was playing.” Kolber was a multi-sport athlete at Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Pa., lettering in tennis, basketball and track, but she played everything — football included. When she was 10, Kolber made the Upper Dublin Township football team and attracted the attention of the Philadelphia media. When a reporter asked how long she planned to play football, Kolber replied, “Until the boys start tackling me when I don’t have the ball.” In the end, the boys never had the chance to tackle her with the ball or without: Other teams in the league refused to play against a squad that fielded a girl.
Kolber studied communications at the University of Miami and, while serving as an intern at the local CBS affiliate, she realized that there might be a future for her in broadcasting. Her first few years in television were behind the scenes, as a producer. But in 1993, when she joined ESPN, it was as a co-host of ESPN2’s signature show, “SportsNight.” Kolber moved on to become an anchor on ESPN’s popular highlight show, “SportsCenter.” After leaving to work briefly for Fox Sports, Kolber returned to ESPN in 1999. She has been the network’s “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter for the past five years. She worked her first Super Bowl, for ABC, last month.
Kolber’s said that her love of sports comes from her grandfather, whom she remembers as a pious man who nevertheless found the time to listen to baseball games on his transistor radio. Would she ever consider doing play by play? “No,” she said. “I think you have to be smart about where your strengths are. I like where I’m at.” This fall, where Suzy Kolber will be “at” is on the sidelines for ESPN’s newest show, “Monday Night Football.”